Today we’re sharing with you another example of how much thought can go into translating even part of a verse.
This post condenses a 9-page PDF by Charles Kuykendall and C. John Collins (the Old Testament Chair for the ESV). We encourage you to read the paper if you want a fuller discussion.
Here’s 1 Peter 3:15a:
but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy… (ESV)
This verse cites Isaiah 8:13:
But the LORD of hosts, him you shall regard as holy. (ESV)
The full paper deals with the following questions, which we will only summarize here.
1. What is the true text of 1 Peter 3:15?
The King James Version translates this verse as:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. (KJV)
Note that it has “God” instead of “Christ.” The manuscript evidence favors “Christ.”
2. Can we translate this verse to show the connection to the Old Testament?
Most translations do not attempt to bring out the citation. They use different English words in Isaiah and 1 Peter.
3. What is the proper meaning of the Greek verb “to make holy” in this verse?
People don’t make God holy, so in this case the verb carries more the sense of treating or revering him as holy. The English word “sanctify” condenses this idea into a single word. Saying that we “set apart” Christ undertranslates the meaning, since “setting apart” doesn’t convey holiness in English.
4. What is the grammatical relationship of “Lord” and “Christ?”
Most English translations treat Lord as a “complementary accusative”–that is:
but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. (RSV)
The ESV treats Christ and Lord as appositives: “Christ the Lord.” In addition to the Greek grammatical evidence for this translation, this verse is directly applying the Old Testament passage to Jesus. It strongly affirms the deity of Christ.